Arlington, VA

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations

Crystal City-based startup 4stay aims to help more students find affordable housing with ambitious plans to quintuple their current reach, thanks to some new funding.

On the heels of raising $1 million in angel investments, last week the state-funded nonprofit Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) announced that its CIT GAP Funds would be investing in 4stay, according to a press release. The size of the investment was not disclosed.

“As someone who has worked in student housing for almost 10 years and lived the pain of many housing challenges, we have seen firsthand the difficulties and frustrations of looking for housing on college campuses,” Akobir Azamovich, co-founder and CEO of 4stay, said in the press release. “4stay is solving these challenges by providing an online marketplace to book furnished rooms around campuses. We also provide $100K insurance, host pay guarantee, and zero deposit to protect students, parents, and hosts.”

The site’s functionality is similar to rental site Airbnb, with students searching for available off-campus housing based on a variety of factors like the number of roommates or length of stay. Types of homes range from apartments to basement rooms in someone’s house, but all locations are required to be fully furnished with students having a bedroom of their own.

“We are grateful for the support of CIT GAP Funds, whose investment will help us further the acceleration of our product development as well as help spread the word through increased marketing efforts,” said Faridun Nazarov, co-founder and COO.

The company currently partners with over 100 schools, but with the CIT investment announced plans to bring on an additional 500 schools over the next 12-18 months. Part of the expansion plans include opening up in new student housing markets in Canada and Europe.

Upcoming offerings planned for the site include features to match users with other residents and the ability to book with room providers like school dorms or student housing companies.

Photo via Facebook

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.comStartup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

(Updated 3 p.m.) Fend — a Ballston-based startup that adds a physical component to the data transfer process to reduce hack-ability — has won a key Department of Defense contract.

The company’s technology transmits information from a data-collecting source, like a piece of industrial equipment, in a unidirectional beam into the second piece of equipment that links with the cloud network. The physical barrier reduces the possibility of hacking through a network.

The startup won a $1.6 million contract to install devices at an Army Corps of Engineers facility starting in June as part of the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program.

According to the Department of Defense project description:

On-board processors enable Fend’s hardware to communicate with protected equipment using common protocols and transmit this information to an on-site network or cloud service. Fend’s [technology] would serve the unmet needs of critical infrastructure managers across [the Department of Defense] by quickly enabling secure access to equipment data.

Dunn said part of the new contract will be putting the project through the wringer to see if it can survive in the field.

“We tested program out in the field and it worked for extended periods of time,” said Colin Dunn, Fend’s founder. “Probably looking at several dozen [pieces]. We need other rigorous scientific tests to make sure the data going into the device is the data going out. There’s also performance tests and environmental tests — seeing if it works in hot and in cold.”

Dunn said the project has evolved some since the initial design, like streamlining the number of ports on the box and figuring out ways to make the product more cost effective and rugged.

“This opens up a lot of doors,” said Dunn, “not just for military, but opening to the commercial sector by showing that it’s good enough for the military.”

The new contract has allowed Fend to expand, with the company currently looking to hire a project manager, electrical engineer, a data scientist and a few people in sales.

Photo courtesy Fend

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

The new frontier of user interface isn’t a keyboard, controller or a touch screen — Ballston-based startup Modev says it’s your voice.

Modev aims to help developers understand voice controls and fully understand the potential and challenges of programming for voice controls.

The main venue for this education is a series of summits where programmers and experts talk about the latest developments.

Pete Erickson, founder of Modev, said one of the big challenges Modev works to solve is helping developers understand just how different developing for voice controls is.

“People are building for mobile, but how do you develop for voice?” Erickson asked. “When mobile came out, user experience was the big new profession. Now, it’s conversational designers. You can’t just slap a voice on the front end — you have to build that from the ground up.”

The current market is for functional home interfaces, where a monotone robot can change the channel or lower the temperature. But Erickson said the market is going to rapidly move towards increasingly realistic conversations.

“Voice is going to be all about customization,” Erickson said. “Just as with mobile apps, voice can measure preferences and habits and be used to synthesize custom voices.”

Erickson says a person using the voice activation for day-to-day home functions will need a different voice to interact with a 7 year-old or an elderly person with dementia.

Modev started ten years ago in a pizza shop in Rosslyn. Erickson had just gotten married and moved to D.C. after years of working in the Seattle technology industry and wanted to meet with other locals who worked in smartphone development. Within a year, the group had 1,000 members.

By then, Erickson started to brand the group as Modev — a portmanteau for mobile development. The group’s first development conference had 325 attendees, and Erickson decided to turn the group into his full-time business.

A decade later, the group has events across the country and in places like Hong Kong. Erickson said most of the money comes from sponsorship, which also gave them the connections to put together the first conference on developing voice controls for Amazon’s Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant.

Rather than hold one central conference, Erickson said the team spent three months of 2017 traveling to 10 cities to meet with developers and help them build for Alexa.

Modev hosts several events every year focused around different aspects of development, like the upcoming VOICE Summit on July 22 in Newark, New Jersey or the management-focused EXO Software Leadership summit on Sept. 15 in Aspen, Colorado.

There are nearly 400 proposals currently being sifted through for Modev’s big conference planned for the VOICE Summit. Founder Pete Erickson’s team is sorting through the projects currently and narrowing it down to 75-100 projects that will have a chance to give a demonstration. The conference last July was expected to have 1,500 attendees. Over 3,000 showed up.

But as they’ve been going through the projects, Erickson said he believes there’s potential to do something newer and bigger. Erickson likes the in-person conferences, but he also has first-hand knowledge of how valuable online conferencing can be.

There are nearly 20 people working at Modev, but the headquarters is just Erickson sitting at a desk in the Ballston Techspace coworking space. Erickson said most of the company is spread out across the country now, and they collaborate online. It’s an experience that Erickson says the company can use to change the way the conferences are held.

Rather than host an in-person conference with a limited number of attendees and performances, Erickson said work has already started for a conference on Feb. 20, 2020, that will live-stream worldwide with a broader selection of presentations.

Photo via Facebook

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.comStartup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Ballston-based tech startup Federated Wireless is taking advantage of new changes to the Federal Communications Commission’s rules to expand its business partnerships.

On March 12, Federated Wireless announced a new partnership with Cambium Networks, an Illinois-based internet provider, to use frequencies newly available for commercial wireless use.

Federated Wireless works on making new frequencies available for commercial use and ensuring that those frequencies do not interfere with other signals. This allows — for example — automatic cash registers to securely interface or factories to wirelessly link their information systems.

Federated Wireless offers its wireless access through the Citizens’ Broadband Radio Service initiative (CBRS), which makes a subset of the airwaves open for commercial use.

“While the traditional licensed spectrum approach has served the largest U.S. mobile operators well, it has also constrained network operators like [wireless providers] who operate smaller networks throughout the U.S.,” Scott Imhoff, vice president of product management and marketing at Cambium Networks, said in a press release. “CBRS changes everything — unlocking a large slice of spectrum for broader commercial use.”

Federated Wireless said the new partnership was made possible by a change in FCC regulations on Priority Access Licenses (PAL). In October, new rules opened up the available spectrum even further for commercial development. The new FCC regulations allow those who are holding PALs but aren’t using them to lease the spectrums to private enterprises.

Part of the change allows wireless internet service providers room to work together on certain frequencies and create a market where groups like Federated Wireless can go toe-to-toe with telecommunications giants by pooling their resources.

“The proposal also opens the opportunity for a fluid and vibrant secondary market for PALs, addressing the PAL needs for many enterprises,” Kurt Schaubach, chief technology officer for Federated Wireless, said in a blog post. “The PAL rules state that the licenses obtained within a county must be used or they will revert to [general] use. This actually encourages PAL holders who aren’t using their licenses to lease them to… other enterprises, giving these properties a competitive edge in the market.”

Photo courtesy Federated Wireless

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.comStartup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

(Updated 1:45 p.m.) Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about refinancing their car, which is why Ballston-based startup MotoRefi aims to make it as simple and painless as possible.

The company claims to save customers an average of $100 per month on car refinancing. MotoRefi works with credit agencies to take improvements in people’s credit score and other factors into account when it comes to car payments.

“A car is the most expensive purchase many people make, outside of their home,” said Kevin Bennett, CEO of MotoRefi. “Unfortunately, most people are driving around in cars with payments that are too high and are at risk of unexpected car expenses that could derail their finances.”

Bennett said reducing the amount people spend every month on car payments helps MotoRefi customers build better financial protection and save up to pay off student loans or other debts.

“We also reduce the risk that people will face a large unexpected out-of-pocket car expense, which is important because people have enough economic anxiety and risk in their lives,” Bennett said. “We help ensure that your car is an asset to your life, not a liability.”

According to Bennett, traditional refinancing can be confusing and lacks transparency. The process starts obligation free, with offers from lenders visible with no social security number required and no impact on a credit score.

If the customer chooses to go through with the refinancing, MotoRefi charges a $399 fee to cover the costs of processing documents and retitling vehicles, which is included in the refinanced loan amount.

Moving forward, the company is looking into platform expansions on the technology and analytics sides, as well as expanding into new markets and growing the local team. Bennett made sure to note that the company is currently hiring.

The company started in 2017 out of an office in Alexandria but moved to Ballston in 2018.

“We moved [to Ballston] because of its central location, the region’s impressive workforce and technical talent, proximity to the metro and the great restaurants and coffee shops the Ballston’s redevelopment has brought to the neighborhood,” Bennett said. “We’ve got a Philz Coffee, Sweet Green, Cava and a ton of other destinations our team loves. And we’re working on a sweet new HQ in the neighborhood, so stay tuned for more to come on that.”

Photo courtesy MotoRefi

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.comStartup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

With the local and state economic incentive packages now approved, it appears to be all systems go for Amazon’s arrival in “National Landing.”

The company has been planning a gradual build-up of its presence in Arlington, with 400-500 jobs expected in the first year of “HQ2,” but 25,000 or more jobs expected to be created here within 12 years. Amazon will initially lease temporary office space in Crystal City, but will build the bulk of its local presence at sites near the Pentagon City Metro.

Amazon’s impact on housing prices has been subject to some debate, though generally HQ2 is expected to bring higher housing costs to Arlington and the region.

Amazon may also have impact on businesses, particularly local startups and tech companies. The tech and retail giant, for instance, might drive up office rents and employee salaries, and might make it harder to recruit technical talent.

We asked a number of local startup founders what they thought of Amazon’s impending arrival and most said they were looking forward to it, but with some apprehension.

“I’m mildly optimistic, though having seen some of the impacts of tech companies booming in San Francisco and Seattle (increased homelessness, drug use and local economy challenges) I’m also a bit nervous,” said Joanne Sonenshine of Connective Impact.

“For my business, which helps companies partner with social impact programs, having Amazon locally is a good thing, so we can advance their social investments to benefit our local and global economic development through their supplier and partner investments,” Sonenshine continued. “I’m hopeful that Amazon will be also be a thoughtful neighbor, however, and consider how their actions impact those of us living around them. I’m… encouraged that a focus on education and technology will also benefit our local schools.”

JJ Linser of L2Platforms struck a similar tone.

“I am cautiously optimistic about Amazon coming to the [area],” Linser said. “From a cultural standpoint, I think their presence will attract even more talented software developers… which will result in a larger and more diverse community of local devs.”

“I think all companies in the software business could benefit off this, because it will give [D.C. area] devs more resources to take advantage, such as more people to exchange experiences and ideas with, which will result in an overall more talented and diverse workforce,” he added. “From a business perspective, I think it could create more opportunity for local software shops to partner and collaborate with Amazon.”

Chase Damiano, COO of Arlington-based Commonwealth Joe Coffee Roasters, says he is particularly excited about having chosen Pentagon City for the company’s flagship location. The cafe at 520 12th Street S. is right across the street from Amazon’s future Pentagon City campus, and Damiano expects Amazon employees to be among his top customers.

“I’m excited for Amazon to come,” Damiano wrote. “It’ll bring more energy to Crystal City/Pentagon City. At a recent town hall in Arlington, Amazon representatives commented they design their offices to ‘nudge’ their employees into the surrounding community. I believe Amazon can bring more business to craft coffee houses like us.”

Jean Jacques Borno, founder of Crystal City-based financial planning app startup 1787fp, thinks Amazon will be a net plus for his company in a number of ways.

“Amazon HQ2 is great for local startups, Arlington, the state of Virginia, and the overall Washington, D.C. economy,” Borno said. “The Amazon move helps establish Washington, D.C. as an emerging technology hub.”

“I am not sure how the Amazon move will directly impact my startup,” Borno added, “but I think it can help us recruit more employees to the area.”

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.comStartup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Privia Health, a Ballston-based physician organization, announced last week its partnership with Health First, the first health system to join the organization.

Privia Health was officially established in 2007 as a partnership with independent physicians, but following the restructuring of the U.S. healthcare system over the last decade, the organization transitioned into the Privia Medical Group. The new focus for the organization was to help independent physicians succeed in “value-based care.” The organization’s first location opened in January 2014.

The organization now works as the management system for independent physicians, helping them manage patient health and improve care coordination. The organization coordinates health plans, health systems and employers with care provided by independent physicians.

Health First is a not-for-profit community healthcare system in Brevard County, Florida. The organization is locally owned and in 2017 provided $159 million in community support.

“Privia unites innovative leaders whose growth strategies embrace our evolving healthcare landscape,” said Shawn Morris, CEO, Privia Health, in a press release. “This unique partnership with such a progressive health system expands Privia into Florida’s growing market. We will work together with Health First and local physicians to continue improving upon the exceptional care that is delivered throughout the region while transforming the healthcare delivery experience.”

According to Amanda Wells, a spokesperson for Privia Health, with the new partnership with Health First, the organization has a presence in five markets across the United States. Wells said the ongoing goal as the organization grows is to find new methods of providing easier access to healthcare providers while reducing the administrative burden.

Wells said the Privia Health’s headquarters in Ballston gives the organization access to both medical authorities and lawmakers.

“In Arlington we have the privilege of hiring and working with some of the country’s top physicians and business professionals, creating a workforce full of employees who are incredibly talented and motivated,” said Wells. “In addition, its proximity to Washington. D.C. and policymakers are key to making sure our business is on top of the latest development in healthcare policy. We are very proud to be a part of the Arlington community, and we look forward to evolving along with the community we reside in.”

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

When Erik Neighbour’s sister gave birth to a baby boy a little over a year ago, like a lot of new uncles, he began to worry about the child’s future.

Around the same time, Neighbour said he read an article about the high number of Americans that would struggle to handle emergency expenses.

Guardian Savings, a new app to help teach children financial literacy, was born out of Neighbour’s desire to help give kids like his nephew a head start on lessons about banking.

“An emergency can happen any day due to something medical or a crash,” said Neighbour. “That was a really shocking statistic, and with my sister having just given birth, I started thinking about how I would teach my nephew about money so they don’t become one of those statistics about financial literacy.”

The group is still in its earliest phases, with a team of three working from home. Two are located in the Courthouse neighborhood, with the third in San Francisco.

Neighbour said the idea was to include behavioral incentives and rewards for good financial behavior that could change and evolve as the kids grew up and learned more about finances.

“Most of the time, financial literacy happens at home,” said Neighbour. “Schools teach theoretical concepts. I learned how to do algebra in high school, but I didn’t learn how to invest or do taxes. But most families aren’t necessarily the best equipped to teach kids, so it’s a never-ending cycle [of financial illiteracy].”

The development featured feedback from local teachers, which Neighbour said was critical in building the app’s interfaces and features.

Almost two weeks ago, the group launched a prototype of their app for elementary-aged children, with future modules planned for older ages. The app currently has around 20 users.

“We’ve been collecting a lot of really useful data points and feedback,” said Neighbour. “We’re looking to expand and improve the prototype for the full launch. It’s not an app like in the app store, so that’s the next step.”

The program is built using JavaScript React, a programming language popular for single-page apps that Neighbour said he hopes will make adapting the program for iOS and Android easier.

But while Neighbour’s team works on building the prototype, he also said the group is started to look at how to make the app financially sustainable. The long term vision is for the app to grow along with its users, so children who start with the basics in elementary school can learn more about investing and taxes and insurance as the children reach middle or high school.

If they can achieve that, Neighbour said he hopes to earn revenue from referring fees to larger financial institutions, like banks or credit card companies. But this is reliant on building a generation of users, which is still an optimistic vision several years in the future.

“In the short term, we’re considering a premium model where there are features families can pay for,” said Neighbour. “A feature like that would be offering a debit card where you can control what vendors it’s authorized for and spending limits, so you can give your kid a card when you’re not with them.”

Photos courtesy Guardian Savings

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

(Updated 2:30 p.m.) — ByteCubed, a Crystal City-based startup contractor and consulting business that’s been on the rise for the last few years, recently merged with D.C.-based digital agency CHIEF to launch U.Group: an advanced technology and creative design company.

The company said in a press release that the merger allows the creative marketing side from CHIEF to access the new technological tools from ByteCubed, while the technology side of ByteCubed can now be marketed and spread on a much broader scale.

“Now when we deliver data science and software, we also bring PhDs, MBAs, and economists who can put it all in the context of the business, regulatory and policy environments in which you operate,” said Lena Trudeau, CEO of U.Group, in a blog post. “And now on the creative side, the solutions we provide are backed by the technical muscle that makes them actionable and scalable.”

The move is part of an ongoing shift for ByteCubed from a government focus to a more diversified clientele. ByteCubed started with a heavy government focus and a $325 million Department of Defense (DoD) contract. The DoD is still listed on the group’s main site as a major focus of the company, specifically aimimg to connect it with American small businesses, but there is also a focus on more commercial and non-profit projects.

As ByteCubed, the company acquired a hologram technology from Maryland-based developer Mixed River in December and launched a new subsidiary specifically focused on developing that technology for other commercial applications.

The hologram technology from Mixed River had previously been used by the Baltimore Ravens as a training tool, simulating opposing teams on the field and reacting to real-time data. As U.Group, the company highlighted continuing to use the “mixed reality platform” as a tool for professional sports. According to the U.Group website:

The platform incorporates Microsoft Hololens augmented reality headsets and video wall technologies so players can study opponent activities in a realistic field environment and experience actual game-day plays. By factoring NFL Next Gen Stats and other unique data sources, the platform is able to analyze and model infinite plays and game-day scenarios, giving the players the critical training they need while protecting them from injury.

The company had also partnered with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), a $45 billion philanthropic group established by Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, a pediatrician and philanthropist. On their website, U.Group said it developed the website for CZI and worked to promote media coverage of the organization.

The group plans to continue working out of offices in Arlington, D.C. and Portland, Oregon.

Photo via U.Group

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.comStartup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

(Updated 1 p.m.)In a groundbreaking 1885 paper, Hermann Ebbinghaus coined the idea of a learning curve. But there was a second part of the paper that tends to get forgotten: a “forgetting curve” of exponential loss of information over time.

That’s where Blank Slate Technologies, a startup based out of Ballston, comes in. Blank Slate Technologies offers learning programs aimed at improving recall weeks, months, or even years after the initial training.

The program assesses the difficulty of various lessons and the time since training to target refreshers only at times where that information is likely to have hit the “forgetting curve.”

Alex Hasslacher, director of sales at Blank Slate Technologies, said the founding team knew each other at Boston University and this was a common interest. The company was founded a little over one year ago.

“It’s an old idea with new technology,” said Hasslacher.

The company’s app has trivia questions on flashcards with multiple answers. An algorithm relies on user feedback to identify which information people are most likely to forget, and when, and then the program asks questions surrounding those subjects.

Professionals from Blank Slate Technologies assist the companies or organizations using the software to design the content for the program and supply data analytics to provide information on training.

Any audio, video or image can be worked into the system, meaning the program isn’t limited by language barriers. Hasslacher said the technology is flexible; he sees it being useful in corporate or education cultures, in everything from elementary school to MBA-level programs.

Hasslacher said the company works on a monthly subscription, usually for at least one year. Costs vary on the size of the organization using the program.

Photo via Blank Slate Technologies

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.comStartup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

All That Yazz, a relatively new, Rosslyn-based soap business has managed to capture the sights, sounds and, most of all, smells of workspaces in Arlington.

An offering of the small business is the “Executive Soap,” named for the contractors, consultants and government workers who make Arlington, Arlington.

“It smells like power. It smells like corporate power. Which is ironic because it is a homemade soap,” said Yasmine Bandali-Alvarado, owner of All That Yazz.

It captures that whiff of air in the wake of a coworker passing your desk to take care of something, she said.

But the one-woman, two-year-old operation has few things in common with the high-rise offices around it.

With microbusinesses come micro budgets. Plus, artists like her have challenges in running a business because they have to put a damper on their creative side in favor of thinking strategy, profit and the bottom line, she said. 

“It’s good to be creative, but then, how do you sell it; how do you advertise it; how do you know what people are looking for?” she said. “Without that business side, it’s just a piece of art.”

All that Yazz offers 18 soaps, most of which are vegan, but some are made with goat and even camel milk.

“It’s a very luxurious soap — the camel’s milk is a notch above the goat’s milk,” Bandali-Alvarado said.

All the soaps are environmentally friendly; they’re free of palm oil, which has come under fire from conservationists because its production can negatively impact local ecosystems, she said.

Farmers burn harvested palm trees to plant new ones, creating smoke and contributing to global warming, Bandali-Alvarado said. Wildlife living in palm tree plantations is driven out, sometimes into the hands of poachers. Bandali-Alvarado was raised in Kenya, giving her an especially deep appreciation of the issue.

“This is really a big part of why I am so passionate about the soaps,” she said. “It’s a much deeper issue and it offers the consumer an alternative.”

Like many such businesses, All That Yazz relies on local festivals to reach customers. There are enough events in Arlington, but the organizers should focus more on the microbusiness vendors, she said.

Bandali-Alvarado’s friend Tineshia Willett, the owner of custom head wrap microbusiness, The Nicole Renee Collection, said she’s had similar experiences with festivals in the D.C. metro area.

“The majority of them are disorganized. To me, they just want the money (from the vendors),” said Willett, a Crystal City resident. “The person who is organizing it is late and it’s their cousin, their momma — the baby — running it.”

Even before they reach an event, there’s a problem, the women said. The owner has to first earn back the vendor fee and the cost of production before turning a profit, Bandali-Alvarado said.

Mary-Claire Burick, president of the Rosslyn Business Improvement District (BID) said a hallmark of the organization is its business engagement program, which connects businesses and helps with marketing even for small businesses like All That Yazz.

“Organizations like ours are critical, especially for small businesses,” Burick said. It offers some 200 events a year and access to its marketing channels.

“Networking is just key,” Bandali-Alvarado said. “You rely on referrals (because) usually the cost of advertising is too high.”

Photos of soap and Yasmine Bandali-Alvarado courtesy of All That Yazz

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